A man has been charged with abducting a child under the age of 16 in the case of an Indigenous girl, who was found and returned safely over the weekend, the Nova Scotia Judiciary has confirmed.
Jennifer Stairs, director of communication for the courts, said 47-year-old Darcy Doyle appeared by video conference in Sydney Provincial Court on Monday. He is expected to appear again on Wednesday for a bail hearing, where more charges may be laid.
If convicted of the charge, Doyle could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Doyle was found Saturday with an Indigenous girl who had been missing for over a week. Nova Scotia RCMP said they located the 14-year-old from We’koqma’q First Nation, along with Doyle, in an isolated part of Cape Breton early Saturday.
They were both taken into police custody and the girl was later released. Doyle was previously known to police and to the girl’s family.
Reached by Global News on Monday, a staff member at the We’koma’q First Nation told Global News the community is relieved, and asking the public to remove all photos and social media posts about the girl in order to protect her privacy as she heals from the traumatic experience.
“She has a full life ahead of her,” said the staff member.
Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said “it’s a big relief” the girl was found, and the case is a stark reminder that Canada needs to take stronger action on combatting the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).
It’s been more than a year since the MMIWG National Inquiry released its report full of recommendations, and the federal government has yet to adopt a national strategy in response.
“I believe the lack of national action plan is where (the conversation) needs to go,” Whitman said.
“We need to make sure that the government is accountable, to have that action plan in our hands.”
We’koqma’q Chief Rod Googoo previously said dozens of community members had been searching for the girl since Aug. 13, when she was last seen at a gas station in Eskasoni, N.S.
The RCMP said this weekend that its investigation into the case is ongoing, but it has come under criticism for not issuing an Amber Alert when the girl went missing.
The Mounties have told Global News that Amber Alerts are only issued when an abduction is suspected, and it did not initially suspect that was the case when the girl went missing.
“Certainly we all need to work together as best we can,” said Whitman. “…And if they’re of minor age, to be able to see that they are notified as being missing, not runaways, because it could have ended up differently. So I think that’s one area that we really need to look at to help make the system better.”
— With files from the Canadian Press